NYC Updates Strict Emissions Law To Waive Fines for ‘Good Faith’ Landlords

By Holly Dutton

New York City officials have updated guidance on Local Law 97, the city’s landmark carbon emissions law, allowing some building owners to avoid costly penalties. The new language is part of the city’s new “Getting 97 Done” plan announced by Mayor Eric Adams this week, a comprehensive strategy for helping buildings get in line with the new rules that the law requires. First adopted in 2019, Local Law 97 requires the majority of buildings over 25,000 square feet to meet strict limits around energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions by 2024, with even more stringent limits to meet in 2030. By 2050, emissions must be reduced by 80 percent. The city’s new rules around the law say property owners who can show a “Good Faith Effort” to reduce emissions and comply with the law can avoid penalties and delay their compliance deadline by up to two years. Owners would have to submit a detailed plan of how they would decarbonize and reduce emissions, which could include an independent energy audit, among other things. 

An estimated 40,000 buildings will be covered under the law, and about 11 percent of those are expected to be out of compliance when 2024 begins. Many co-op and condo boards have expressed serious concern about how they will afford to upgrade building systems in order to meet the new standards and how they would manage the steep fines for not being in compliance. NYC is one of many cities that have recently rolled out new rules for building owners regarding carbon emissions. The push to curb emissions has gained since late 2021 after President Biden signed an executive order requiring all federal operations to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. But the major question for many building owners has been how necessary upgrades and retrofits to meet the new standards will be financed. In Ithaca, New York, where city officials voted to fully decarbonize the city by 2030, officials have a plan for that. Two companies have partnered with the city to provide low and zero-interest loans to help owners finance the upgrades. The new guidance by NYC officials will surely come as a relief to building owners, but there’s still a long road ahead for many who need significant upgrades. But as Ithaca’s model goes to show, private capital could further help NYC meet its goals.

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